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    Friday, March 02, 2007

    When Sorry Isn't Enough: We are often told by anti-tort reform forces that if we just acknowledge our mistakes, the malpractice insurance problems would go away. Maybe. But sometimes, acknowledging a mistake will just get you accused of murder:

    The sons of a woman who died from a medication error at Akron City Hospital filed court actions this week seeking damages and an order changing her cause of death from accidental to homicide.

    The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Victoria O. Baker, 82, of Akron, died on March 2, 2005, from an accidental overdose through an intravenous line of a drug called potassium phosphate.

    Baker was supposed to receive the drug through a feeding tube -- not an intravenous line -- before undergoing tests while hospitalized at City Hospital for gastrointestinal discomfort, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

    The medical examiner determined that the overdose through the IV line resulted in cardiac arrhythmia, a potentially fatal condition in which the heart beats abnormally, according to the cause of death report.

    ``We acknowledged at the time of the event and continue to acknowledge that an unfortunate, unintentional medication error led to the death of Ms. Baker, for which we remain deeply sorry,'' Summa spokesman Mike Bernstein said.

    But Akron attorney David P. Drew, the administrator for Baker's estate, and her sons, Clark and Gary Nobil, are seeking a court order directing the Summit County medical examiner to change the cause of death to homicide from cardiac arrest -- the sudden, abrupt loss of heart function.


    The anger has to be directed somewhere, and since the mistake's been admitted and responsibility accepted (with willingness, presumably, to pay for the mistake in a malpractice settlement), there's little satisfaction for the aggrieved. They must have the satisfaction of hitting back as hard as possible and making those who made the mistake hurt as much - or more- as they are hurting.
     

    posted by Sydney on 3/02/2007 09:51:00 AM 4 comments

    4 Comments:

    "We are often told by anti-tort reform forces that if we just acknowledge our mistakes, the malpractice insurance problems would go away."

    Who told you that?

    "(with willingness, presumably, to pay for the mistake in a malpractice settlement),"

    You know what happens when you assume.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:36 PM  

    Who told me that?

    These guys.

    It's often offered as a serious alternative to tort reform. We should take responsibility for our mistakes, but it obviously doesn't always alleviate the anger.

    By Blogger sydney, at 8:12 AM  

    No one seriously suggests apologizing alleviates the anger or prevents any particular malpractice suit. There is little doubt, however, that on aggregate it works to reduce suits, settlements, and damage awards. Malpractice insurers believe this as they are encouraging apology laws (without such encouragement no such laws would pass).

    Your citation of one contrary case hardly disproves the general belief in apologies. Nevertheless, there are other significant problems with apology laws. Marlynn Wei's recent paper on this is excellent.

    By Blogger Daniel Goldberg, at 1:46 PM  

    IV administration of K3PO4 isn't an accident, it's murder. The hospital can apologize all it wants, but it's not like it was an adverse drug reaction; they gave the patient a drug IV which will kill you if administered IV. If i was the patients family, i would also seek criminal charges; for this is a criminal act. The culpability depends on the crime; if there was say an adverse reaction to tylenol, then i couldn't see criminal charges being brought; it happens. But K3PO4? That's beyond the pale. Sawing off the wrong leg? Also culpability, but don't know about criminal. But a life was lost, unnecessarily, due to criminal negligance. If we require medical practictioners to not try and kill patients, then it should increase the standard of care. Here i don't thing people smarter than a brick are to blame (ie RNs, MDs), but those med techs that have at most 2 years of school? That and the lack of supervision is the real issue I think. There should be some basic requirements of knowing things that will kill patients, quickly. Seems like common sense to me.

    By Blogger Rob Dejournett, at 10:00 PM  

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